Today President Trump signed a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims of the newsroom shooting at the Capital Gazette last week. Flags will be flown at half-staff at the White House, federal buildings, and ships until sunset this evening.
USA Today reports that the President expressed sorrow on behalf of the nation in the proclamation.
“Our Nation shares the sorrow of those affected by the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland,” Trump said in the proclamation. “Americans across the country are united in calling upon God to be with the victims and to bring aid and comfort to their families and friends.”
The proclamation comes five days after the shooting and after Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley said Monday that his request to the White House for flags to be lowered had been denied, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy?” Buckley said Monday afternoon. “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”
The initial refusal brought criticism in light of the president’s routine targeting of the media as the nation’s biggest enemy and his adversarial relationship with journalists. A professor who studies presidential proclamations told USA Today the delay was a missed opportunity for the president.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston professor who studies presidential proclamations, said the Maryland shooting was not just about the number killed, but that “the crucial role of the free press in America puts their status on par with any other government official.”
“This is a missed opportunity to make a truce with the press,” he said. “To not lower the flag unfortunately says a lot about the president’s view of the members of the media.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained to reporters this morning that the decision was made after the mayor’s request was verified, CNN reports.
Asked about Buckley’s claim that his request was denied, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN on Tuesday morning that “as soon as the President directly heard the request made by the mayor, he asked that we reach out and verify that the mayor had made the request. When we did, the President asked that the flags be lowered immediately.”
Sanders said she spoke to Buckley Monday night to inform him of the President’s decision, adding that she was “not sure about the process” which led to Buckley’s claim that his request was initially denied.
“But there’s certain protocol that was followed. It was — but when the President heard about the mayor’s specific request to him, he fulfilled the mayor’s request in order for the flags to be lowered,” she added.
The five day period before lowering the flags after the newspaper shooting is similar to the five day period that elapsed before President Obama ordered flags be lowered after the recruiting center in Tennessee was attacked in 2015 and five service members were killed. Then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted about Obama lowering the flags after Trump had the flags at Trump Tower lowered.
I'm glad President Obama followed my lead and lowered the flags half-staff. It's about time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2015
⊕ Five people were killed and two injured in the Annapolis shooting last week.
⊕ The decision to lower flags to half-staff rests with the president.
⊕ Flags are lowered to mark national tragedies such as the passing of former presidents, the loss of service members, or mass shootings.
⊕ President Trump has lowered flags for four other mass shootings.
- Las Vegas, Nevada (58 dead)
- Sutherland Springs, Texas (26 dead)
- Parkland, Florida (17 dead)
- Santa Fe, Texas (10 dead).
- In all of the previous four, flags were lowered for four days.
⊕ President Obama set a record with the number of flag-lowering proclamations during his presidency totaling 70. Reagan had 20, George H. W. Bush had 8, Clinton had 50, and George W. Bush had 57. Trump has lowered White House flags a total of 14 times.